It is undisputed that keeping rabbits outdoors is the most species-appropriate way to keep the animals. Nevertheless, there are some things to consider here especially in winter and rabbit newcomers usually have questions about questions. Understandably, because if the outside temperatures fall then times into the two digit minus range, probably each rabbit owner will ask itself whether its animals are also really able to survive this extreme cold.
Rabbits are extremely “winter-proof”.
The worry is mostly unfounded. If a few conditions are met, rabbits are able to withstand temperatures as low as minus 20°C without any problems. However, this is only true for healthy animals and only for those that have been outdoors for a sufficiently long time and therefore have had the opportunity to form the extremely thick and insulating winter coat. Ideally, the rabbit should be outdoors from early summer at the latest.
Keeping at least in pairs
Most important basic rule for keeping rabbits in winter: They must be at least in pairs!
This has the simple and obvious reason that the animals can then warm each other – and this makes quite a lot in terms of heat! If the temperatures drop, the rabbits will move closer together and cuddle – cute to look at and quite smart to boot.
Enough space to hobble
It is also important that the animals have enough space all around to hobble around warmly. Movement makes warm – if the rabbits are locked up somewhere, they do not have this opportunity, which could end fatally.
A winter-proof outdoor shelter also includes a wind- and weatherproof, well-insulated indoor shelter where the animals can retreat in cold temperatures.
Frequently asked questions about outdoor housing in winter
In this section we have answered the questions that often arise in the field of outdoor housing in cold temperatures, that is, in winter.
Which food in winter?
The choice of food in winter is not as large as in summer – so it is all the more important to ensure sufficient healthy and varied food. Hay and dried herbs should be available to the rabbits around the clock at all times of the year. In winter, carrots, carrot greens, the greens of cauliflower or radishes are just as suitable as broccoli, kohlrabi, kohlrabi greens, cucumber, peppers, parsley…
Rabbits may also receive fruit in moderation, for example apples or bananas. But even in the harshest of winters, rabbits don’t need dry food – at least not any that has grains or any sugars in it. A few pea flakes or sunflower seeds as treats, on the other hand, are allowed, and pellets consisting only of hay and herbs are also okay as food in winter.
Bring rabbits indoors for a short time in winter?
Anyone with children will probably be confronted again and again with the question “can we bring the rabbits inside?” As unfortunate as that is – no, you may not. Because if the rabbit is used to cold temperatures and is suddenly brought into the 20°C warm room – and then a short time later back outdoors – this can quickly lead to a dangerous cold. After all, it can’t just take off its fur and “undress” like we humans do. Such temperature shocks should be avoided if at all possible. If the visit to the vet is pending, this is of course an exception – but in general it is true that rabbits from outdoor husbandry have no business indoors in winter.
The situation is different if the temperatures outside are rather mild and in the double-digit range. Then there is nothing against bringing the rabbits indoors for an hour or two to play.
Rabbit needs to go to the vet or indoors for a while – how to get used to it?
As explained above, under no circumstances should the rabbit simply be brought into the warm and then put back outside. That means, for example, if a trip to the vet is imminent, rabbits must first be slowly accustomed to the warm. This can be done by first placing them in an unheated room for a few hours, allowing them to gradually get used to the warmer temperatures.
Water in winter – how to prevent freezing?
When temperatures drop below zero for an extended period of time, there is definitely a problem with water. You can counteract the rapid freezing by, for one thing, putting warmed water outside and changing it 2 times a day if possible. Also a small tennis ball or a piece of wood on the water surface prevents too fast freezing.
Nipple drinkers, however, are not a good idea, because firstly, drinking from them does not correspond in any way to the nature of the animals (in the wild they also drink from streams, puddles, etc.) and at the aluminum could stick to the tongue in the cold.
To ensure that the rabbits still get enough liquid, it is always useful to offer a lot of water-containing vegetables.
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